Designing for the environment

Maheen Mustafa May 17, 2010

KARACHI: Muhammad Ali Bushnak has been designing automobiles for as long as he can remember. What makes him special are not just his unique designs, but the fact that he is not afraid of capitalising on them, to the benefit of both himself and international automobile firms that are currently using his eco-friendly designs for their brands.

The Express Tribune interviewed the talented young man, who is in early 30s, to learn more about his passion for cars.

How did you start as an automobile designer?

I had always been intrigued by cars on the road, as a child, and was especially fascinated by the toy cars my father bought for me. I would look at their designs carefully and draw them… So yes, I started designing at quite an early age.

I remember I wasn’t interested in comics or video games like other kids of my age. Also, my father was in the military and interacted with diplomats who used to see my work and appreciate it. Later, they helped me establish contacts with the international industry. Ultimately, I chose automobile designing as a serious profession in 1987 and began designing cars with my brother, Aga Haider.

Why do you say your designs are ‘unique’?

I don’t mean to praise my own work, but my designs speak for themselves. They stand out because of being futuristic and compatible with the year 2020.

My designs are eco-friendly, green and specially made for a fuel-free era. Also, I design in such a manner, that the exterior of a car is appealing, yet user-friendly and creative.

And of course, I want it to have that ‘wow-factor’ as well. Engineers from Norinco, a Chinese firm known for its hitech defence products, saw my designs and they thought they were brilliant and different.

So how do you exhibit your work?

Besides my friends and family, who help me market my ideas, I visit various schools, colleges and universities to share my designs with students. Recently, I went to the Lahore Engineering and Technology University and I received a great response from the students.

Are your designs being used by the local industry?

Unfortunately, Pakistan does not have an automobile industry; we have an assembling industry. We don’t manufacture cars so my designs would be useless for the local markets.

Does this mean you only cater to the international market? Who are your clients?

Yes. Two European companies are using my designs currently, but I cannot name them due to copyright issues. In fact, some of the cars I designed have been driving on the streets of Europe for six years now.

How much do you charge for your designs?

It really depends upon which market I am catering to. For instance, when designing for the European market, more analysis is required and one needs to understand their psyche. In their case, I would charge 120,000 pound sterling.

However, I want to clarify that I do not want to attach a price tag to my designs. Those who understand my work value it. But at times there are companies which are willing to pay you for your design, but refuse to give you credit. I have declined several such offers in the past. I mean, what is the point if I do not get credit for my work?

What is your target market?

I don’t focus on a specific market. I designed automobiles with two doors, four doors and family cars as well. I don’t just design for the rich; I want to design for the public so that everyone can afford them.

How do you see the automobile industry in this day and age?

There are four designs that will gain momentum in the coming decade: the Volkswagon bio-runner, the Honda great racer, the Mercedes Formula 0 and the Renauld Twizy. Others include electro-cilo, hydro-fuel cell and electric fuel cell and so on. All these designs have fuelfree engines and are aimed at controlling pollution so they are relevant to the ‘green programme’ that countries are trying to achieve in the coming decade. Instead of fuel, these cars will run on solar, electric and water energy. Besides, the time will come when flying cars will be made.

In your opinion, what does the Pakistani automobile industry have to offer in the coming years?

Frankly speaking, had the Chinese not invested in Pakistan, our industry would have been in ruins. Look around2 us, look at all the sectors in the industry. For defence, the Chinese helped develop al Khalid tank and al Qaswa armoured personnel carrier.

In pick-ups, they provided us with FAW and Shanghi and in ordinary cars they gave us Gelee. Pakistan needs to allow those willing to invest in the local industry to get their own business running, otherwise the future of our automobile industry looks quite bleak.


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